Food entrepreneurs have a lot on their plates. From sourcing the best ingredients to finding the perfect packaging – there’s no shortage of tasks to take up your limited time and resources. However, no matter how dialed in your product is, you can’t start taking over retail until you conquer compliance. 

Nutrition labeling requirements can make startups feel lost. This feeling often leads businesses to fork over tons of money for consultants to take care of their nutrition labeling. In this article we’re going to cover how you can quickly create compliant nutrition fact panels so you can put more of your hard earned cash back into your business. 

Do I need a nutrition fact panel? 

While the FDA always requires ingredient statements and allergen declarations, there are actually cases when nutrition fact panels can be optional. There is a small business exemption for companies that have less than $50,000 in food sales and less than $500,000 in total sales. However, even if your company falls beneath this threshold, it’s important to think about where you want to sell your products. If you’re looking to make your products available in any major retail chain, you need nutrition fact panels. 

Sometimes it even makes sense to get started before it’s required. This was the case for Ed Caracapa of Wild About Popcorn. “From our inception, we always planned on ecommerce and wholesale accounts being a significant part of our Gourmet Popcorn business,” he explains. “This drove the need for proper nutrition labeling.”

Even if you’re not yet required to have nutrition fact panels, they can often be differentiators for emerging food businesses by helping convey professionalism, demonstrate transparency, and further illustrate a product’s value proposition. One other important thing to note is that a nutrition fact panel is automatically required whenever a product makes a nutritional claim. For example, showing Vitamin C is usually optional on labels, however, if your product claims to be a good source of Vitamin C then your nutrition fact panel must list its percent daily value.  

Do I need to send my food to a lab? 

Many people assume that nutrition analysis is a task that can only be performed in a lab by a food scientist. While lab analysis is one of the acceptable ways to produce a nutrition fact panel, it’s often not the ideal choice for emerging food brands. 

Lab analysis tends to be expensive and time consuming – two resources that startups can’t spare. It can easily cost over $1000 to analyze just one product. And once you finally get your results back you still have to put those nutrition facts into an acceptable label design that follows all of the FDA’s formatting guidelines. 

What happens if you want to change an ingredient, adjust the formulation, or just have a lot of flavor or packaging variations? This was a challenge for Wild About Popcorn. They offer over 40 different flavors to wholesale partners with a variety of packaging options. “We had considered using a lab to create our nutrition labels but found the cost was prohibitive,” he says. 

Instead, the brand worked with a database nutrition analysis provider to quickly and cost-effectively create its nutrition labels (Full disclosure – they worked with Recipal).  

How does database nutrition analysis work? 

You don’t need to be a scientist or mathematician to do a database nutrition analysis – you just need to know your recipe. Database nutrition analysis works by using known nutritional values of ingredients to determine the overall facts of a recipe. The USDA has a large ingredient database and software platforms like ReciPal leverage this information to empower food entrepreneurs to do database analysis themselves. While you could calculate this by hand, software simplifies the process by instantly applying all the rules and doing the calculations for you. 

With this method, you search the database for an ingredient and add it to your recipe. From there, you set the amount that you use of that ingredient. As you add ingredients and adjust their amounts, the aggregated nutritional data will instantly be populated in a nutrition label, applying all of the rounding and formatting rules. If there happens to be an ingredient that isn’t currently in the database, you can create a custom ingredient by uploading supplier provided nutrition information. Within a few minutes, you can have a completely compliant nutrition label as well as an ingredient statement, allergen declaration, and manufacturer details – all the necessary elements of an information panel

What are the benefits to database analysis? 

Database nutrition analysis is massively more cost-effective and for many businesses just getting started that’s often what matters most. As a business owner, time is your most valuable resource and database analysis means that you can produce an accurate label within minutes. However, there are many other benefits besides cutting costs that come with going this route. 

While lab analysis gives you a one time result, database analysis can be used as a tool for research and development. Rather than just reporting back nutritional facts of a static recipe, database analysis allows you to experiment with how different ingredients and quantities will affect your recipe’s nutritional values. If you want to formulate a recipe that comes in under 100 calories or that packs 20 grams of protein, being able to easily make adjustments and see how it affects nutrition is invaluable. 

This flexibility is even more important if you need to be nimble. For companies that are making limited edition runs, seasonal items, or simply have lots of varying offerings, database analysis removes many barriers to new product development. For Wild About Popcorn, this adaptability was essential. “The tool itself is intuitive and easy to use. Built-in features allow for changes in recipes or packaging size to be quickly accommodated.” 

On top of promoting product development, it also serves as a system to organize your data. The same software backs up all your recipes in the cloud. Recipes are searchable, scalable, and have a detailed history of changes over time. 

Further, database analysis allows you to tie other metrics beyond nutrition to your recipes. Within ReciPal you can add the cost of your ingredients. By doing this, you can easily see your cost per batch or per package for each recipe and automatically have those costs adjusted with any changes to your formulation. You can even include non-food costs like packaging, labor, or overhead and set target margins to help determine proper pricing. 

When does lab analysis make sense? 

There is still certainly a place for lab analysis. Some products that undergo heavy processing are better suited for the lab as the processing may alter the nutrient contents in an unpredictable manner. One example is fried foods, where it is difficult to measure oil absorption and changes to the ingredient being fried.

Another reason it may make sense to turn to a lab is if you’re using an exotic ingredient where there is no nutrient data available from your supplier. In this case, you would need a lab analysis to know exactly what that ingredient is contributing to the recipe. 

However, one misconception is that a lab analysis means that you’ll have a more accurate result. Remember that a lab analysis is based on just one sample. Ingredient nutritional content may vary across seasons and your cooking process may change over time. Since database values are put together from multiple samples they can actually give you more accurate results in the long run. 

Wrapping it up 

Creating compliant nutrition fact panels can actually be quite easy. While many businesses assume they need to rely on food scientists to test their products in a lab, in most cases this can be handled in-house with easy to use software. If you know your recipe then you’ve got everything you need to create an FDA compliant nutrition fact panel on your own. 

We invite you to create a free nutrition label at

You can also find ReciPal in the RangeMe Services section  of the platform here.

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